“Ludicrous” Union Dues Skim Faces Lawsuits

On Monday, two separate lawsuits were filed in response to Gov. Wolf’s February executive order which opens the door to unionizing tens of thousands of home health care workers. This would give SEIU—the largest of Wolf’s many public sector union political donors—access to a potential $21 million in union dues every year.

But Gov. Wolf’s team denies the executive order does anything but let home health care workers talk to the governor’s office. Why that would require an executive order is anyone’s guess.

“It doesn’t allow them to organize,” Wolf press secretary Jeff Sheridan told WITF. Sheridan told the Tribune Review the suits are “ludicrous” and that “the executive order is about helping the disabled and elderly, not union organizing.”

Who’s got it right? Let’s review Wolf’s executive order (emphasis mine):

An employee organization that has as one of its primary purposes the representation of direct care workers in their relations with the Commonwealth or other public entities may petition the Secretary to represent a particular unit of Direct Care Workers.

The truth is “employee organization” is simply a legal term for a union. The order specifically allows unions to seek to represent (i.e., organize) direct care workers.  It even offers to provide a list of workers’ home addresses to help the union organize.

Wolf’s order also defines a new “Direct Care Worker Representative” (emphasis mine):

All Direct Care Workers identified on the most recent Direct Care Worker List (at the time the election is requested) shall be eligible to vote in an election.  If the majority of votes cast in the election are for the petitioning organization, the American Arbitration Association shall certify the election results, and the Secretary shall recognize the organization as the Direct Care Worker Representative.  There shall only be one Direct Care Worker Representative recognized at any time.

Put more simply, the order creates a monopoly union representative for all home health care workers.

And Gov. Wolf makes the unionization process as easy as possible—an election could be held with only 10 percent of home care workers signing up, far lower than the 30 percent threshold in the current labor law. Moreover, the election would be conducted by the American Arbitration Association, not the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board, which is the standard in all other cases.  And the union would actually win the election with just a majority of those voting, as opposed to the true majority required under the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act.

The order goes on to describe a “meet and confer process” over several issues that can result in a “memorandum of mutual understanding.” This has the same effect as collective bargaining by any reasonable understanding—they’re just changing the terminology.  

What will they be negotiating over? Wages, health benefits, retirement, paid leave, working conditions, and—of course—payroll deduction of union dues.

Indeed, Acting Secretary of Human Services admits, under questioning from Sen. Scott Wagner, that this order would allow home care workers to join a union and pay union dues.

Without doubt, this order is stealth unionization of home care workers. To deny it by using doublespeak is—in Jeff Sheridan’s own words—simply ludicrous.